Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Special CNY visit to Uncle Harry's

Joan Hon, 72, is a retired teacher and daughter of the late finance minister Hon Sui Sen

I have visited Uncle Harry every Chinese New Year for as long as I can remember.

But it was my visit in 2010 that I will never forget.

It started out like any other visit to Oxley Road on the fourth day of the new year. I was joined by my younger sister Brenda and her son Max.

Max was then working for local technology company Xmi which designed the now widely recognisable donut-shaped X-mini portable speakers. So after all the social niceties, Max presented one of the speakers to Uncle Harry as a gift.

He opened the little box and we stuck the little speaker into his handphone and the sound came out loud and clear.

Then he wanted to try it on his computer. So we went into his study to plug it in, and out came the "eehs" and "aahs" of his Mandarin lessons.

He liked it very much and was proud of the fact that it was made in Singapore.

He said: "Careful, don't let the Chinese copy you."

Max replied: "Too late, copied already!"

We chatted a little more, before he asked: "Would you like to see Auntie Choo?"

She was in the bedroom next door. Unable to speak or move since her last stroke, Auntie Choo was lying motionless in a hospital bed, with her eyes rolled back and a tube in her nose.

He said: "Choo, Ah Fong and Keat are here to see you."

Uncle Harry and Auntie Choo were the only two people outside my family who called me by my Chinese name, Fui Fong. Keat is my sister's name.

They were familiar people to all of us.

Uncle Harry was always bouncing his theories and ideas off my father Hon Sui Sen, whom he persuaded after 10 years to enter politics.

Auntie Choo, on the other hand, would set aside stamps for me because she knew I collected them.

But I never really knew Uncle Harry beyond the superficial chit-chat we were used to having in his living room.

So when he took us into his bedroom to see Auntie Choo that day, it felt as though we were entering the holy of holies.

It was his most private space, and he had let us, the children of his old friends, in.

I said a prayer for Auntie Choo. She died on Oct 2 that year.